Korea is a beautiful country with a rich cultural heritage that has unfortunately been ravaged after attacks from Japan and the division of the country after the Korean War. Fortunately, Koreans have held on to their historical culture, and their traditional customs and foods still thrive. Some of the best food to try while in Korea is also some of the most commonly found. These traditional dishes can be found on almost any corner and are must-tries if you find yourself in this peaceful country.
1. Bulgogi (barbecued beef)
Bulgogi (pronounced pool-go-gee) is definitely one of the most popular among Westerners travelling in Korea and is probably among the country’s most famous grilled dishes. Beef is cut into thin strips and is left to sit in a marinade of soy sauce, sesame oil, black pepper, sugar, onions, ginger and wine for at least four hours. It is cooked with garlic and onions and served like a stir-fry with rice. Sweet, savoury and delicious!
2. Baechu kimchi (cabbage kimchi)
The one thing never missing from a Korean dinner table is the classic cabbage dish, kimchi. Kimchi is an acquired taste, but if you get the good stuff and eat it like the Koreans do (as a side to mix with the main dish), you will begin to see why it has lasted the test of time. Baechu Kimchi is the most traditional form of the dish and is made from whole heads of cabbage soaked in brine and hot spices. It is spicy, tangy and delicious when paired with other Korean foods.
3. Ggakdugi (radish kimchi)
This a kimchi dish in which radishes are used in place of cabbage. This is a somewhat cheaper version of kimchi and is served at roadside stands and most restaurants, as a side with all main courses. The radishes are parboiled and coated with red pepper powder, garlic and ginger.
4. Kimchi bokkeumbap (kimchi fried rice)
This is a very quick and easy Korean dish that is commonly thrown together for lunch or a simple dinner. When kimchi has soured, Koreans fry it and add rice, some sort of meat and veggies, and let the flavours mix together. It is usually served in a big pile with a fried egg on top.
5. Gimbap (rice wrapped in seaweed)
You can find gimbap on most city streets in Korea. This is another meal popular for its convenience and inexpensive ingredients. It’s also a pretty nutritious snack. First, you take dried seaweed and spread a layer of rice on top. Then other ingredients (usually sausage, ham, spinach, cucumber, carrots, crab meat or radishes) are added on top, and it’s rolled up into a sushi-style wrap.
Do you like Korean food? What’s missing from this list? Add your opinion in the comments below.